With the new millennium barely 2 months old, 2 more former players received their first caps as members of the Scotland side that toured New Zealand that winter, led by Andy Nicol. Jon Petrie and Ian Fullerton both performed with distinction in what was a hard test series for the Scots.
In the same year’s inaugural 6 Nations Championship, Andy Nicol became the first Scotland captain to lift the Calcutta Cup in 10 years when he led Scotland to a famous Murrayfield victory over England, denying them the Grand Slam. It was a memorable day for the club as not only was Andy captain, ex-club president, Harvey Wright was President of the SRU. Furthermore the ballboys that afternoon were also from Dundee High School.
Summer 2001 and the Lions roared in Australia, Tom Smith again playing all 3 tests, with Andy Nicol answering an 11th hour call to sit on the bench for the final match in that close fought series.
At Mayfield, plans were formulated to take the club back to the higher echelons of league rugby and the appointment of former All Black, Jason Hewett as player/coach was the highest profile of the club’s many ambitious plans, while the return to the fold of several former players gave the new coaching regime a solid kernel around which they could mould a successful side.
The fruits of these efforts to reinvigorate the club were quickly evident as Dundee’s fortunes turned around in dramatic style, gaining promotion back to Premier 2 as Premier 3 champions for 2002/2003 having narrowly avoided relegation to the National Leagues the previous season. Captain Tim Parratt also led the side to victory in the Shield Final at Murrayfield that year (See picture below) and to become Scottish Rugby’s team of the year.
Back: Alasdair Dickinson, Chris Cumming, Ken McKay, George Smith, Neil McComb, Jon Vernon, JJ van der Esch, Callum Rankin, Jason Hewett, Alan Brown, Niall Gallagher
Middle: Bruce Beckett, Ross Lemon, Dougie McLaren, Andrew Kennedy, Neil Paterson
Front: Richie Hawkins, Dougie Gray, Shannon Wilson, Tim Parratt, Mark Lamont, Andy Kennedy, Colin Whittaker
Missing: Adam Russell
With new coach Ian Rankin at the helm for season 2003/2004, Dundee exceeded expectations on their return to Premier 2 and were just pipped for promotion on the last weekend of the season. But there was to be one last hurrah as the guys built on the previous season’s BT Shield winning performance to out gun Hawick in the Cup semi final in the rain and mud at Mayfield to set up a mouthwatering final against runaway Premier 1 champs, Glasgow Hawks.
Colin Whittaker led Dundee (see picture below) to the narrowest injury time defeat in what was described as the best Cup Final seen at Murrayfield.
Back: JJ van der Esch, Neil Dymock, Dave Mason, Chris Cumming, Ken McKay, Kev Rosbottom, Ryan Milne (hidden), Tim Parratt, Neil McComb, Richie Hawkins, Ian Rankin
Middle/Back: Ross Lemon, Danny Slavin, Mike Kerr, Dougie Gray
Middle/Front: George Oommen, Callum Rankin, Dougie McLaren, Alan Brown, Niall Gallagher, Andy Kennedy, Shannon Wilson
Front: Lindsay Graham, Colin Whittaker
Although finishing a disappointing 2004/2005 league campaign in 4th spot, Dundee defied the odds and defeated three Premier 1 teams to make their second Cup Final appearance in a row and third consecutive finals’ day. The road to Murrayfield included the club’s historic first victory at Hawick plus wins against GHA, Stirling County and Aberdeen GSFP. Facing Boroughmuir in a final even closer and more exciting than the previous year, Dundee were agonisingly beaten in the final few minutes. But it was clear from their cup form that as the club’s 125th season loomed, Dundee had a squad more than capable of competing for a long overdue place in the top division.
Standing: Bruce Beckett, Mike Kerr, Richie Hawkins, Dougie Gray, Kevin Rosbottom, Neil McComb, Mark Jenkinson, Chris Cumming, Ross Lemon, Ryan Milne, Shannon Wilson, Nicky Grant, Alan Brown, Colin Whittaker, Ken McKay, Ian Rankin
Kneeling: Callum Rankin, Lindsey Graham, Dougie McLaren, Jon Petty, Jon Alston, Neil Dymock, Barry Jones, George Oommen
Missing: JJ van der Esch
Season 2004/2005 also marked the arrival of Dundee’s own junior section with the formation of the Dundee Eagles and the employment of a Recuitment Officer for juniors. Huge interest amongst local kids ensured that the club could field several age group sides in a highly successful first season.
The season ended with the announcement that former Dundee player from the 1970’s, Frank Hadden was to be the interim Scotland coach in the wake of Matt Williams’ departure. One of Frank’s first changes was to name ex-Dundee captain Jon Petrie as captain of Scotland for the summer of 2005.